NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Return to Circuit of the Americas?

Despite the rain, NASCAR successfully ran practice, qualifying, and all three races in its inaugural race weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

The Camping World Truck Series race was won by Todd Gilliland, the Xfinity Series race was won by Kyle Busch and the Cup Series race was won by Chase Elliott. Yet the weekend featured its share of controversy. The Cup Series race was filled with wrecks and red flags due to the rain, and NASCAR called it 14 laps before the scheduled finish due to worsening conditions.

After just one race weekend at the road course in the history books, our columnists Mark Kristl and Joy Tomlinson debate whether NASCAR should return to COTA next year.

Go Elsewhere, NASCAR

I eagerly anticipated NASCAR racing at Circuit of the Americas for the first time. After watching the three races, I was left disappointed at the product provided by the latest road course addition in Austin, Texas. NASCAR should not return to COTA next year.

First, the Cup Series race left multiple drivers furious, with champions Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Busch all displeased with the on-track product in the rain. The second stage was marred with wrecks, and seven drivers failed to finish the race. While the rain can be blamed, many drivers and fans are not going to have fond memories of this race. Would you want to return to a track after you were involved in a multi-car wreck at that course for the first time, or were treated to a blinding fog of water?

NASCAR can look elsewhere for new venues to replace this track on the schedule.

COTA is also a large road course at 3.41 miles, complete with 20 turns. The pole-winning time was more than a minute and a half. At Bristol Motor Speedway, a minute and a half would constitute six laps! The incredible length of COTA spread the field out, so lapped traffic was not a factor. Although the leaders likely enjoyed not battling lapped drivers, racing in traffic adds another variable to the race. Throw in standing water that had to be blown off the track, and it just made for downright dangerous conditions that resulted in a pair of lurid accidents that had the drivers visibly rattled. NASCAR should therefore look elsewhere.

See also
Zach's Turn: Why Did NASCAR Allow Such Dangerous Conditions at COTA?

Despite all the hype surrounding the inaugural COTA race, arguably overshadowing the previous race weekend at Dover International Speedway, fans did not tune in as expected.

If all that hype did not produce high ratings, especially compared to 1-mile Dover, is it worth returning? New tracks should result in high ratings, with fans clamoring to watch the race. NASCAR should seek higher ratings by adding other new courses to the schedule instead of a return to COTA.

NASCAR shook up the schedules for this year, adding the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, COTA, etc. There are other viable options for NASCAR.

A Frontstretch 5 column featured five other road courses where NASCAR could go.

Chicagoland Speedway, Iowa Speedway and Kentucky Speedway were removed from the NASCAR schedule. Although Chicagoland and Kentucky are both 1.5-mile tracks, Chicagoland has been the site of some memorable races. Kentucky has not been a fan-favorite, but it is a newer track. Would a 200-lap, 300-mile Cup Series race on a Saturday night reinvigorate some excitement into those races there? It might be something worth exploring.

Iowa, a 0.875-mile short track,  has hosted a combined 33 Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races. Clayton Caldwell argued NASCAR has ignored short track racing. NASCAR changed the first Bristol race from asphalt to dirt – should it add Iowa to replace a short track race? Keeping with the Midwest theme, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway has been the site for 20 Truck races. Additionally, after Michigan International Speedway lost one race weekend, Chicagoland, Iowa, and Kentucky were removed, Gateway would give the Midwest another race date.

In case NASCAR opts not to travel to those circuits, there are other possibilities for that COTA race date.

NASCAR’s returns to Nashville Superspeedway this season. Meanwhile, nearby Fairgrounds Speedway is still a popular choice for a NASCAR revival as well. If Dale Earnhardt Jr., a 15-time Cup Series Most Popular Driver, is backing the return to the Fairgrounds Speedway, NASCAR fans will follow suit.

Lastly, the Cup Series race took three hours to complete, despite ending 14 laps early. When a flagman signals 10 laps to go, the excitement of the race conclusion amps up. Instead, the lengthy course, the bad memories for many drivers, and better alternatives mean NASCAR should consider its trip to Circuit of the Americas to be a one-and-done. – Mark Kristl

Let’s try racing at Circuit of the Americas again

NASCAR should absolutely return to COTA next season. Just because heavy rains dampened the fun at the Austin, Texas course, doesn’t mean NASCAR shouldn’t try again. The Cup Series race ended under a red flag due to the rain and visibility; seems like such a strange way to end the lone date.

If it rained at Daytona International Speedway, would we be demanding a removal from the schedule?

I’d like to see things play out in sunny weather, like what happened in the Xfinity Series race. Yes, I know it was the Kyle Busch show for much of the event and there were only five green-flag passes for the lead, but I’m sure there were still some battles throughout the field that Fox didn’t air. If we used this as a measuring stick, we wouldn’t have had an Xfinity schedule at any track after 2010.

Look at the Camping World Truck Series race; it was entertaining and had some good fights for the lead and other positions. It was also really wet, though not as bad as the Cup race. There was no clear winner until the end of the contest, as multiple drivers led several laps that day.

Of course, the rooster tails weren’t quite as bad in that event either. It seems the main issue with COTA was the poor visibility from the mist sprayed out the back of the cars; it was so thick it almost looked like fog. No one could see anything when they were behind other racecars going at a high rate of speed. This part was dangerous, yes; NASCAR did admit its fault for not stopping the race after the first set of crashes involving Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace.

NASCAR is looking into that issue and started on Monday (May 24) at Richmond Raceway by adding mud flaps to cars during the wet weather tire test. Joey Logano offered some insight and shared his thoughts about the mud flaps and tires, saying that the tread pattern may play a factor in the amount of water sprayed. But ultimately I feel that if it’s raining too hard for them to run at COTA, then they should wait it out or postpone.

It still shouldn’t be the sole reason for not trying again, though. NASCAR fans wanted a variety of tracks this year and got it. If the Cup Series didn’t return to Circuit of the Americas, where would it go? Probably back to Texas Motor Speedway- another 1.5-mile cookie-cutter track. I’m sure you remember the last time Cup drivers took on that course in misty conditions; it ended up being postponed until Wednesday that week.

Also, there were quite a few fans in attendance that stuck through the downpour, adding to the excitement in the atmosphere at the 3.41-mile circuit. Let them have another race date in hopefully better weather so they can fully enjoy the festivities. Keep in mind, the Next Gen car is coming out next year – a car that has some obvious Australian Touring Car influences in its design – and we don’t know how exactly it will react in the rain. Let’s wait and see how the race goes in calmer conditions before we completely cross COTA off as a dud. – Joy Tomlinson

 

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32 Comments
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David Edwards

Does anyone change their weekend plans to watch a NASCAR race because they are at a new track? I don’t think so either. I think ratings are more likely driven by what else is available to watch.
So go back to COTA it will make no difference to the ratings for that weekend.

rg72

Exactly. In this case, the race ran opposite to the second most compelling story line for the final round of a golf major in the last decade. Not sure how Gluck didn’t take that into account.

Trey B

You’re exactly right. And the PGA was what I chose to watch live instead of COTA. I did watch the race later recorded (to FF through all the yap and commercials)

Chester F.

Jeff Gluck is not a NASCAR employee but he is a NASCAR company man. It would never occur to him that fans might find some other sporting event more interesting. In Gluck’s eyes it is the fans’ fault. It’s always the fans’ fault with him.

janice

use to be where i scheduled my weekends around nascar races. that stopped a few years ago. now i’m lucky if i remember to turn on channel to watch cup race, and usually i don’t make it to halfway.

i thought that mess last weekend was horrible. as i’ve stated previously, nasacar was lucky no one got seriously hurt. i also don’t think that track is built for stock cars.

Lee Wood

Agree on all accounts! This is NOT a track for stock cars or stock car racing! But then, NASCAR has already made it’s mind up, to heck with what the fans say or want! They will come back to this track. This new car IS NOT a stock car, it is a road-racing car and THAT is the way that NASCAR intends to go! Look for more ovals to be dropped from the schedule and be replaced with more road-courses and with street races! That is why I’m done with NASCAR and with being a fan at the conclusion of this season!

Ken wormington

Does nascar ever listen to the fans we r just a bunch of dumb hillbillies and we no nothing for that reason I have given up on nascar it has just gotten to the point of no longer being fun to watch and u have to have an engineering degree to understand I just want to relax and enjoy myself

Bill B

Well I usually watch the Cup race no matter where they run but I made a point to watch some of the truck and Xfin races just because of the race being at COTA. I was curious as to how the race would be. So there was at least one sucker that watched more than they would have if the race wasn’t at a new track. I am sure I wasn’t the only one.

JW Farmer

You must be a fair-weather fan. I always plan my weekend and my grilling menu AROUND what NASCAR race is going to be on. Ribeye steak for the Daytona 500, BBQ chicken for the Southern 500, BBQ ribs for the first Talledaga race finally, broiled trout for the Brickyard. I have been a fan since 1988 so maybe it’s different for me. They should have let them finish the race-heck they didn’t stop them at the Daytona Beach course.

Lee Wood

I am not a “fair weather” fan, by any stretch of the imagination. You say you have been a fan since 1988, that’s nice — try being a fan since 1958! I’ll let you count the number of years up. I use to eat, sleep and breath NASCAR racing, but as the years have gone by, as NASCAR has and continues to more further and further away from stock car racing and turns more and more toward being a road-racing series, they have driven me further and further away! I was, a one time, a life long, hardcore, diehard fan, now, due to the direction that NASCAR car has taken and continues to take, I will end my fanship at the conclusion of this season!

DoninAjax

“I was left disappointed at the product provided by the latest road course addition in Austin, Texas.”

“Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Busch all displeased with the on-track product in the rain. ”

I noticed the word “product” more than once. That’s the problem with NA$CAR product-ions. They are not considered “races” any more.

The pole time was 132.911. That is TWO MINUTES AND 12.911 SECONDS. The F1 time is about 1:40 and the car is about half the weight of NA$CAR’s bumper cars.

JW Farmer

DoninAjax. The only person that wins in F-1 is Lewis Hamilton. How is that even remotely good racing? Hell, I think he’s won 50 of the last 65 F-1 races or something like that. BOOOOORRRRINGGGGG. And at least in NASCAR, the men KEEP racing after contact; in F-1, a slide into the gravel trap ends the day.

I do HATE the word “product,” though. This is racing, not a commodity.

WJW Motorsports

Ha – Lewis didn’t even finish in the top 5 last week – but still get your point and agree. I’m not sure what F1 is – but it certainly isn’t racing. It’s basically an extended qualifying session with a stop or two to change tires. The only thing it has going for it for me anyway is there isn’t much else to watch at 7AM on most Sundays.

David Russell Edwards

It may not be racing in the American fashion, but it is certainly racing. A form of racing that draws a worldwide audience which dwarfs anything in this country. Better or worse, thats’ for each of us to form our own opinion. Remember it wasnt that long ago that we looked down our noses at road racers and road racing. But now they are embraced because of the decline of the traditional stock car format.
Times change.

WJW Motorsports

Agreed – though I grew up going to Lime Rock myself so I was used to watching NASCAR on a road course and never really made a distinction (in my head anyway). Although I will say I’ve noticed the connection between F1 and Soccer’s global popularity. It seems to me that these folks (and the Europeans in particular) have a predilection for incredibly boring sports.

Bill B

Hahaha, you got that right. The only F1 race I usually watch every year is the Monaco race and it is only because of the aesthetics (how cool to run through the city) and the fact that it’s part of the Memorial Day weekend tri-fecta. I rarely watch Indy either but will usually tune into the Indy 500 religiously. I did watch the Monaco race last weekend and was pleasantly surprise that Hamilton didn’t win.

David Russell Edwards

I get your point about the domination of Sir Lewis H. and his Mercedes in this era of F1. But remember there have been other dominant cars in previous eras as well. Schumacher in his Ferrari, Vettel in the Red Bull, The battles between Senna and Prost, and on and on.

But one thing you are perhaps overlooking is that Nascar is still popular in our eyes, but worldwide? No way. F1 is orders of magnitude more popular than Nascar can ever hope to be.
Just a case of different strokes as it were.

DoninAjax

Before Lewis it was Schumacher. Before that the competition was more equal and there wasn’t the domination. It sure wasn’t like that with Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jack Brabham, Mario Andretti or Gilles Villeneuve. So much for progress making things better. I’d like to see Hamilton drive an Auto-Union.

Jo

I watched all three races and found them entertaining beyond what oval races give us. The NXS in virtually dry conditions was the best of the three. The rain should not be a determining factor on whether to race here again, just as rain should not be a determining fact in dropping any track. And I agree totally with those who pointed out that NASCAR was upstaged in the TV ratings by Phil Mickelsen’s win.

For Mark Kristl to use the frustration of drivers at the way NASCAR dealt with the rain is completely irrelevant to whether the track itself provides good racing. I believe it does and I hope they go back.

Tony Geinzer

I am thinking the root in all of this is the All Star Race being back in Charlotte, and I feel that Central Texas has had an awful track record on Venues. Generally, if it was interest in acquiring a pre-existing venue, I feel Austin was not wanted in the Formula One Scene, either, and I would think long and hard over building new venues again.

John Dawg Chapman

One thing I was very disappointed in had nothing to do with the track or the racing. It was the officiating. Yes, F1 races in the rain, but they don’t race when it’s obviously unsafe to do so. When they determine conditions to be unsafe they don’t hesitate to red flag the race until conditions improve. Race officials failed in this regard. Then when they finally made the decision they stopped it right in the middle of green flag pit stops. Thus tainting the race results, punishing some, & rewarding others.

Larry D

I was highly disappointed at the lack of competition at COTA. The cars/trucks just became spread out too quickly to provide any real competition. So, I could care less if they go back there next year or not.

Sam

On the contrary. I rarely watch NASCAR but went because track is local and I love racing in general (mostly endurance and rally). The worst thing about NASCAR is the stage racing. Imagine a track relay race but you make everyone wait for the last guy to catch up before they can hand the baton off and continue. That’s the dumbest thing ever, especially on a long track like COTA. Just run the full race all at once. It’s more exciting and it would have spread the field out making for more passing opportunities from lapped traffic. The staging created just enough separation to distance cars, but not enough to make it a game of skill on paying slower traffic.

The other boring part was so many laps under yellow or between stages.

Greg Simpson

I agree with you on “stage”racing. I NASCAR wants to pay stage points, they should just designate a lap # that they will give bonus points instead of stopping and restarting the race. I believe at one time they gave bonus points at the halfway point of the race.

Al

I 100% agree on the number of laps behind the pace car after every yellow. Seemed to take forever before they got back to racing. The stage yellows don’t help either.

Deborah Harman

I was at the race and HONESTLY Nascar failed. All the reviews are bogus. THERE are lits of NASCAR fans. They should have called the race alit earlier. I think there is some favoritism so that is why they called it while Elliott was leading! That type if racing is wrong. COTA SHOULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB! THE OWNERS OF THUS TRACKED BOMBED!!

Lee Wood

I agree with Mark Kristl. NASCAR should not return to this track! This IS NOT stock car racing! But then, NASCAR is no longer interested in stock car racing or in stock car racing fans! This was proven, when steve phelps, when asked what NASCAR would do, with regards to the “new car”, during the talks about it’s development a couple of years ago, said; rather sarcastically I might add — “well, we could go back to racing stock cars, but we are not going to do that!” The fact is, they SHOULD BE going back to racing stock cars, similar to the cars that they raced back in the 60s and 70s and go to Iowa, back to Chicagoland or other oval tracks! Instead, they will drop more ovals and add more road-courses and street races. That is why this new car is a road-racing car, not a stock car. I have two pieces of advise for NASCAR. one, stop lying to the fans, tell them that you are moving away from and will no longer be a stock car racing series. Two, change the name of your organization to reflect the direction that you are going and what you will become — the “National Association of Sport Car Automobile Racing”. This will be quite simple for you, you won’t even have to change your acronym. I have been following NASCAR since 1958, 63 years. With this of this season and the new, road-racing car in place, to start the 2022 season, NASCAR breaks the final tie to stock car racing! The breaking for that final tie to stock car racing brings the end of my being a NASCAR fan. At the end of the 2021 season, I’m GONE!

Echo

I watched all of all three races because of the new course. It’s a shame it rained but I would like to see them race another year there in dry conditions. Of course, it will be with the IROC car so I might not be watching by the time that race comes around.

RW

Camaros and Mustangs racing on road courses sounds like TransAm in the 60’s and 70’s. If more road courses replace ovals, will NASCAR be renamed?

Big Mike H

I attended the Nascar races at COTA, and truth be told is was a piss poor execution of race day activities for the entire weekend. This is a F1 track trying to masquerade as a Nascar track rain or no rain. Many sports fans make fun of the left turn circuit but after what I watched left turns on an oval track is a great thing that Nascar seems to be forgetting. In my opinion it seems they are trying for other racing series fans. F1 fans are not Nascar fans and vice versa, do I watch F1 yeah a little bit but I work graveyard and there’s not much else on to watch on TV when I get home other than some soccer or bass fishing . I can guarantee I’ll never attend another race at COTA . I truly hope this is a trend that doesn’t continue, COTA is never going to be Sonoma or Watkins Glen and it’s sad to say but when longtime fans stop attending races and ratings start going down down and down and the bottom line starts to be affected maybe someone with a 6 figure salary will get the message.

DoninAjax

Imagine what “racing” in the rain at Martinsville or Bristol or Richmond would look like.

Jennifer Hill

Was Kristi paid by the word for this article? How many times can he repeat the same thing. More data, less filler, would be awesome. I’m a fan who was in the stands getting soaked with my 23 year old daughter and we had the absolute best time. We created memories as a family and it was exciting to see NASCAR gaining traction in new markets and new generations.
F1 is gaining fans of the next generations through things like its Netflix series but it feels NASCAR is incredibly stagnant. COTA was compelling months before the rain or the wrecks, because it showed NASCAR drivers were going to display they had variation in skills. My daughter’s joke that they “just turn left all race” was tossed aside, especially following a boring Monaco where the only news item was a stripped bolt.
NASCAR needs variety to hook new fans and COTA is exactly what they need. Please don’t take away this part of the NASCAR story because of one weather event- the thousands of soaked fans who stayed to cheer on the race and eventually the winner are the growing NASCAR family.

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